ray street

The entrance to Ray Street off Brooks Avenue is shown Wednesday afternoon in Elizabeth City. The city will replace water and sewer lines on the street, benefiting 27 homes in the neighborhood.

Needed water and sewer relief is coming to more than two dozen homes on Elizabeth City’s Ray Street.

The city was recently awarded a $930,000 state Community Development Block Grant to replace water and sewer lines on the street. The fix will benefit 27 homes in the neighborhood which is off Brooks Avenue behind Enfield Park.

The city’s application for the state grant was rejected by the N.C. Division of Water Infrastructure in April but the city reapplied and was tentatively awarded approval on July 14.

The project will replace 1,750 linear feet of water lines and 1,600 linear feet of sewer lines that run under Ray Street.

City Manager Montre Freeman called the grant money wonderful news. A timeline for construction has not been set.

“Infrastructure improvements for the city is huge,” Freeman said. “It allows us to increase our service levels.”

The sewer lines on Ray Street experience high “inflow and infiltration” which overburden the wastewater infrastructure there. The deteriorated lines have suffered multiple cave-ins which cause blockage of sewer flow.

The project will include installing new 8-inch PVC pipe and installation or replacement of sewer cleanouts at every residence. The city also plans to upgrade the current 6-inch and 2-inch water lines with 6-inch PVC piping to better meet capacity needs.

City Grants Administrator Jon Hawley said no city match is required and that the amount awarded should cover the cost of the project.

The grant application process required the city to collect demographic and income information about the households who would benefit from the project.

“We would not have got funding without their accessibility and openness,” Freeman said.

The Ray Street project won’t be the only water and sewer project the city will tackle in the coming months.

The city will receive around $5.2 million from the federal government’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan and Freeman is proposing that City Council approve using that money for water and sewer improvements. Freeman said the city has received around $2.6 million of that money, with the rest expected in a year.

Freeman said economic development could be halted without infrastructure improvements to the city’s water and sewer system.

Currently, a large amount of rainwater is getting into the wastewater system and that rainwater is then treated as sewer, which taxes the system and could impede future growth.

“Economic development is a big deal in terms of growing the city,” Freeman said. “Before we talk about economic development we have to talk infrastructure and (sewer) capacity.’’

Freeman hopes to present a infrastructure plan using the COVID money to City Council sometime in August. The city is awaiting an engineering report to identify the fixes needed.

“We have already paid for a study and as soon as they come in and tell us what we need, then we will know what the plan will be,” Freeman said.